The chronicles of Ethiopian American life, outlooks and experiences.

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Who is in fact the “Typical Habesha”

There are plenty of blogs and tumblrs and little funny clips that say “you know you’re habesha when..” I find these very amusing and often times find myself relating to many of the posts.  Maybe I am a typical Habesha, but then again what does that really mean?  Today I would like to throw it out there for my readers….What is a “typical” habesha?  Do you consider yourself to be one.  Or are you a combination of “Typical” Habesha and American.  What do you think makes you typical.  Share your thoughts and ideas here!

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Spreading your wings to fly..the habesha mom’s greatest fear.

Eventually, every bird must leave the nest and learn to fly on his or her own.  Every parent knows that this inevitable truth is coming at some point, yet they act surprised at that moment of truth.  I feel as though Habesha parents seem to have a big problem with this subject matter.   

All of our habesha parents seem to want us to grow up and move away from the nest.  Whether it is moving out of town or out of the house.  They seem to become shocked with utter disbelief when their Ethiopian-American offspring are ready to leave the nest and make a declaration of independence.  Most Ethiopian Americans like myself grow up in closely knit family groups where everyone sticks together.  As soon as one person leaves the nest it is sometimes thought that the child has abandoned his or her family.  This is far from the truth.  It is always amusing to me because it seems as though they forget that they left their homeland and went to a foreign country, on the other side of the world before they were even 18 for the most part.  Parents complain about their kids sucking up all their resources, and constantly needing this or that.  Then when the child is prepared to declare independence, it is as though the child has turned his or her back on his or her family.  Note: this child is not actually a child anymore. 

This opinion is based on my personal experience as well as the experience of those around me.  I have several friends and family members that have moved away from their home towns, in search of something new.  A new adventure, a new experience, following their dreams and passions.  These are positive attributes where the Habesha parent should be proud.  At the end of the day I truly do believe they are all proud.  There is just a minor sting in their heart by the fact that their Ethiopian American child is no longer a child.  A reality that we must all face. 

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Abate (Father)

Abataye, (My Father) is the best Dad a girl could ask for.  I must say., He doesn’t hear it enough.  I think father’s are sometimes under appreciated and we take their existence for granted.  We often see our father’s as an enforcer ( which I do/ did).  But as a young woman, I see more clearly the important role my father has had in my life.

My dad and I have a pretty awesome relationship.  He is a dad, a friend, a confidant.  We argue, often, he lectures me, often, and reminds me (quite regularly) who the parent in this relationship is.  Along the way he has taught me to follow my dreams, work hard, stand up for myself and to never fear anything.  He has taught me about life and how to remain balanced.  He has shared his wisdom from his life experiences and always helps me navigate my way through the complexities of life.  We have engaged in endless political, theoretical and philosophical debates.  Each discussion teaches me something new and gives me a different perspective.

My father also took the initiative (along with my mother) to teach me how to take pride in my culture.  He especially played a role in me learning Amharic.  He insisted that we speak only Amharic in the house.  He took extra effort to make sure that no one ever made me feel bad if I mispronounced a word.  He simply allowed me to continue because he was confident that I would figure out the correct pronunciation.  Even today, when I say a new word in Amharic he tends not to correct me.  This is because he truly does believe we will figure it out and if we start to be corrected for every little thing we will lose confidence.  That was another major lesson he taught me.  How to be confident and fearless.

My father is also not the traditional or typical Ethiopian man.  Although he tends have strict views, he’s also very much about empowering his daughters.  He showed us respect, emphasized the importance of education and how to be confident.  They say that the way a father treats his daughter is a reflection of the type of man a girl will tend to marry.  I know my father raised and treated me well and I expect no less from my future husband.  The bar has been set high and I will accept no less.  Whenever anything in my life felt like it was going wrong, Dad was the one I would run crying to.  (literally).

I owe much of my success to my father’s tireless efforts.  He always pushed me to reach my limit and even surpass it.  Whenever I was scared or had fears growing up I knew I could go to Daddy.  He always some how knew exactly what to say to make whatever it was that was bothering me go away.  He still does.  I appreciate that and love that.

So Daddy, Happy Father’s Day! and Happy Father’s day to all the Dads out there from EthiopianAmericanGirl!


Elelelele (The sound of excitement and praise)!

Weddings, graduations, church services, celebrations of any type are often accompanied by this: “Eleleleleelel”.  The high pitch chant that we make in times of praise and excitement.

Not all of us can reach the highest pitch.  Often the elders and mothers within the Ethiopian Community have mastered the art of the perfect “elelelele”.  The rest of us try to make some sort of effort, and often our attempt results in a slower version of the chant.  E Le E Le E Le, we say in our attempt to share our joys and take part in our cultures heritage. 

ImageEthiopian people are joyous people.  Although the country has its share of issues, We are culturally rich.  We share this joy through song, dance, praise and “elelelele”‘.  We are expressive people and that expression often is delivered through the beautiful sound of joyous songs and chanting.  It gives us all great pride to hear that sound.  Whether it is at your graduation or your wedding and your family gathers around you and says “elelele” you will feel that joy, praise, and connection with your roots.

So spread the joy, spread the love and excitement.  Shout Elelelelelelelele for all to hear!


Taking pride in your name: Ethnic vs. nonethnic

A common issue among children of immigrant parents is the use of Ethnic names.  They are difficult to pronounce, hard to spell, and sometimes are the butt of all jokes in elementary school.  Per the name of this blog my perspective comes from the Ethiopian American experience.  I know of Ethiopians who give their children, American names, or names that are common in both the American culture and Ethiopian culture.  They do this in an attempt to protect their child from teasing or make it easier and socially acceptable for American’s or member’s of other ethnic groups to pronounce.  But here’s my question: What is a parent teaching their child by adapting to the American culture by naming their child something that is clearly not within the list of Ethiopian cultural names?  What about the idea of having an American version and an Ethiopian version to your name?  Yes , we are all guilty of utilizing a different pronunciation of our name when explaining it to an American colleague , classmate or friend.   I obviously do not expect people to pronounce my name the way my mother or father intended it to be said, however I do expect people to try to get as close as possible.

After attending two graduations two weekends in a row, I realized : the person that announces the names of the graduates absolutely butchers each ethnic name.  These graduates worked hard for however many years in their respective programs and at that very moment when their moment of glory and success is about to be celebrated the man/woman who is announcing the names destroys the pronunciation.  Talk about a slap in the face.  So what is the solution? Should parents reconsider what they name their child to avoid such humiliation? Should they make their children feel as though their name is not enough?  NO!!! Here’s my opinion: Parents should name their child however they want, give the ethnic Ethiopian name, name your child after your great grandmother with an obscure name , make it super ethnic, and then TEACH YOUR CHILD TO BE PROUD OF THAT NAME.  Teach your child to pronounce it with pride, explain the meaning, and make them proud to be who they are.  That’s what I truly believe. 

Yes, it is difficult to pronounce certain letter combinations in Ethiopian names, especially “ts” “ke” “che”, but even still- I think part of self confidence comes from being proud of where you come from, and if your parents gave you a super ethnic name be proud of it.  Say it correctly let other people butcher it, don’t do the butchering for them.  If you want I think its completely fine to come up with a nickname to shorten it, whatever it is you want to do, but be proud of who you are.  Never change anything about yourself or your culture just to make someone else’s life easier.  #Imjustsaying #ethiopianamericangirl.

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Enate, Mother

Enate!  Mother The cornerstone of the Ethiopian family.  Where our stories begin and end.  In Ethiopia, like most places around the world mothers are the cornerstone of the family.  Mothers bare the children, are nurturing, supportive and have unconditional love for their children.  The love between a mother and child are absolute.  It is the type of love that no one else could ever possibly understand.  For that reason mothers have always been protective of their children; ready to pounce on anyone who tries to harm her child.

My mother is Ethiopian. So my point of reference is only the Ethiopian mother.  Ethiopian mothers are the ultimate care givers.  My mother is always trying to feed me, clothe me, and do anything she can to make my life as easy as possible.  She is a small petite woman but she has the strength of no other human being.  She can look at you and strike fear inside of you.  She is the sweetest person, but as a child and a young adult I know that if I do something to disappoint or anger her, her wrath will be unbearable.  So I just don’t (or at least try not to).  I keep mommy happy and she keeps me happy.  I am always in awe at my mother’s unconditional love.  She has sacrificed so much, in the name of love of her children.  Not only that, she has also stepped in and played the role of mom to her nieces and nephews after her sister passed away.  Of course no one could replace a mother, but she felt that she wanted to share her motherly love with them in their greatest times of need.

My mother, like so many other Ethiopian mothers, came to America a place she did not know or grow up and raised her children here.  She had to learn a new culture, a new language and then had children in the United States.  She didn’t know how American parents raised their children or what was going on in momma we made itthe houses of the other kids (and really she didn’t care).  She didn’t care, she was going to raise her kids the best way she knew how….turns out her way was pretty darn good if I do say so myslef :-) !  She did know one thing, she was going to be sure that her kids knew where they came from, loved where they came from and were proud of where they came from.  We went to school and she did not allow us to doubt ourselves or where we come from.  She instilled self confidence in us.  She loved us with all our flaws, and showed us what it meant to care for others.  I watched her care for her family, friends and husband (my father).  She showed me what it meant to be a woman that respects herself and others. She taught me what to wear and what not to wear.  She showed me how to love unconditionally, and how to do things not because you expect something in return but because it was the right thing to do.  She taught me the social norms and customs of the Ethiopian culture.  She taught me how to blend into American culture.  She taught me her native language and food and dance.

My mom never sat down and directly “taught” me all of the things I listed above.  However, by watching her I learned all of the above.  Her boldness and ability not to let anyone ever tell her what she can and cannot do has encouraged me to do the same.  She challenges every obstacle put in her place and questions everything placed before her.  She does not take no for an answer.  She has taught me to do the same.  She has taught me to think for myself, take risks and spread my wings and fly.  Hearing her talk about her life experiences (those details are for another post at another time) gives me confidence that I can overcame any and all obstacles that may come my way in life.  Knowing I have her genetic coding is the best thing ever! She is Amazing and I love her very much.     To have come from such a great woman is a true blessing.  I hope that thus far we have made her proud and in the future only make her prouder.

I could go on and on for days about my mom and all Ethiopian moms, but that’s enough for now.  Share your thoughts memories and what your mom has done for you.


Happy Mother’s Day to all the mommys, Especially mine!  Thank you for all that you do, all that you’ve done!


Tribal wars? Is it really necessary?

I recently the BBC posted an article about students at Ambo University who were killed.  There are conflicting reports between the eye witnesses and the Ethiopian government regarding what the cause of the fighting was.  Eyewitnesses claim 47 were killed.  The Ethiopian Government claims the number is only about 4.

Al Jezeera posted this article:

It is saddening that peaceful protest is met with violence.  This is a common practice that governments around the world engage in.  It is nothing new in Ethiopia.  That is why I am instantly disturbed to hear such claims, whether true or untrue.  The reality is that people should not die for raising questions to the government.  Peaceful protest should not be met with violence.  Regardless of the issues, regardless of the location.

The main point I would like to make here is that , as an Ethiopian American I find it unbelievable that there is so much tribal divide within such a beautiful and rich country.  So if one claims his or her tribal sect, does that mean he or she cannot take pride or claim the accomplishments of other Ethiopians?   In my opinion an Ethiopian is an Ethiopian, regardless of which tribe he or she com400px-Provinces_of_Ethiopia,_before_1935.svges from.  The Ethiopian government should represent all Ethiopians equally.  I believe that there is great risk to the culture as a whole if we begin to really look at each tribe as an individual entity as opposed to a united country.  As the saying goes “United we stand and divided we fall”.  Therefore it is important that we stand together, stop oppression, and simply embrace our culture and the government embrace all people.

I know this is a simplistic way of looking at things, but sometimes the most complicated deeply rooted issues, are actually quite simple to unravel.

There are many political issues in Ethiopia.  The issue of the Nile, issues of human rights, issues of tribal loyalty.  Which do you think is the most detrimental to the country? What puts us at most risk? Share your thoughts here.


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